Canucks in­vade U.S. TV

North-of-the-bor­der tal­ent pop­ping up on small screens and be­hind the scenes

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - ARTS & LIFE - By Bill Bri­oux

LOS AN­GE­LES — Don­ald Trump may need to build a wall to keep all the Cana­di­ans out of U.S. TV shows. You couldn’t help but no­tice the snow­bird con­nec­tion at the just-con­cluded Tele­vi­sion Crit­ics As­so­ci­a­tion press tour in Los An­ge­les. There seemed to be a Cana­dian cast mem­ber or pro­ducer on ev­ery panel, in­clud­ing singer Carly Rae Jepsen among the stars of Grease Live (pre­mièring Sun­day on CTV and Fox).

The Mis­sion, B.C., na­tive plays Frenchy and grew up watch­ing the orig­i­nal movie with her step­mother.

“We would have the pony­tail on the top of our heads and we would dance and sing it out from be­gin­ning to end.”

Jepsen even starred in a high school pro­duc­tion of Grease.

“It was my first time ever walk­ing in high heels or show­ing any­thing ever so scan­dalous as a black leo­tard. My father was the prin­ci­pal so he was not too keen on the whole idea.”

Be­sides Jepsen, there’s a Cana­dian on ABC’s Amer­i­can Crime: Toronto’s Con­nor Jes­sup. Ali­son Pill ( The News­room), also from Toronto, is on ABC’s mid-sea­son drama The Fam­ily.

Mon­treal na­tive Vanessa Len­gies ( Glee) re­turns in the Fox mid-sea­son en­try Se­cond Chance. Fel­low Mon­trealer Meagan Rath is in Fox’s new com­edy Cooper Bar­rett’s Guide to Sur­viv­ing Life. Kris­ten Gu­toskie, from Markham, Ont., is among the stars of the up­com­ing CW drama Con­tain­ment.

Hou­dini & Doyle, com­ing to Global and Fox, boasts two ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers from Lon­don, Ont.: David Shore and David Hosel­ton (both from House). Toronto’s Re­becca Lid­di­ard plays a con­sta­ble on the se­ries, which was par­tially shot in Toronto.

Van­cou­ver lads Seth Ro­gen and Evan Gold­berg are be­hind Preacher, a dark, comic book-in­spired se­ries AMC has high hopes for.

A trip to the set of CBS’s Su­per­girl in Los An­ge­les brought word that Toronto’s Laura Van­der­voort ( Bit­ten) was join­ing the se­ries as Indigo and that Henry Cz­erny was also guest­ing as Toy­man.

Less sur­pris­ing, per­haps — given the state of the Cana­dian dol­lar — was how many new U.S. shows are be­ing shot north of the bor­der. The X-Files re­turned to Van­cou­ver for its six new episodes. DC’s Leg­ends of To­mor­row, star­ring Vic­tor Gar­ber, and Lu­cifer are two comic-book hours shot in B.C.

Two of the stars of NBC’s Su­per­store are Cana­dian: Mark McKin­ney and Lau­ren Ash. A vet­eran of both Kids in the Hall and Satur­day Night Live, McKin­ney plays a be­fud­dled big-box store man­ager.

“I don’t know any com­edy writer who wasn’t a huge Kids in the Hall fan,” says Su­per­store ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Justin Spitzer, ad­mit­ting he “geeked out a bit” at meet­ing McKin­ney.

Few would have more of an in­sider per­spec­tive of the bor­der-hop­ping busi­ness of tele­vi­sion than McKin­ney. The 56-year-old Ottawa na­tive shoots Su­per­store in L.A., where he lives, and flies to Toronto to ap­pear op­po­site Jay Baruchel and Robin Duke on Man Seek­ing Woman. The FXX com­edy is an Amer­i­can se­ries shot in Canada star­ring a Cana­dian.

McKin­ney’s proud of his Win­nipeg-shot se­ries Less Than Kind, where he was a writer/di­rec­tor/pro­ducer, as well as the se­ries he helped cre­ate with Bob Martin and Su­san Coyne, Slings & Ar­rows.

“We’ve been noodling along a pre­quel to Slings,” he says. “We’ll see if it gets picked up.”

He’s en­cour­aged by all the pro­duc­tion go­ing on across Canada but also has con­cerns, es­pe­cially with the con­sol­i­da­tion of Cana­dian me­dia play­ers such as the pro­posed takeover of Shaw Me­dia by Corus En­ter­tain­ment.

“You want, as a writer, to think there are eight or nine doors you can go to so you can find the one per­son who gets your show,” he says. “In that sense, I find it’s get­ting a lit­tle tight.”

On the plus side, he does feel that the new fed­eral govern­ment “at least will be a cheer­leader of the arts and not just as­sume we’re all a bunch of lefties who hate their party.”

McKin­ney also ques­tions why Cana­dian pri­vate net­works, faced with global com­pe­ti­tion from stream­ing ser­vices such as Netflix, aren’t more in the con­tent game.

“I can’t think of a more missed op­por­tu­nity,” he says, look­ing around the crowded NBC press tour party. “If you as­sem­bled all the Cana­dian tal­ent that are prob­a­bly in this room here in Los An­ge­les, and Toronto and Van­cou­ver and else­where, and put them all to­gether you’d prob­a­bly go, ‘Why isn’t (the num­ber of Cana­dian-made TV shows) big­ger?’ It should be.”







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